The concept of teacher identity can be taken as multifaceted and constructed in a dialectical way. It has several implications, such as teacher education, school leaders, teacher unions, or curriculum can provide a universal teacher identity in which teachers need to fit. Human beings can influence their lives and the peripheral environment where they live. Teachers experience many opportunities to change themselves and to be identified by them and by the external environment. Identity construction is a kind of narrative positioning that opens the understanding of teachers as active agents in their own life where identity formation is dynamic and changing (Davies & Harré, 2001). Our relation to the world, people, choices, and language construct and reconstruct our identity (Weedon & Rappaport, 1997). Identity is not a fixed attribute of a person. It is a relational phenomenon and is a process of interpreting oneself by the periphery and environment. There has been a growing interest and research on teacher identity construction in many parts of the world (Dolloff, 1999). Identity can be defined as a set of ideas, self-concepts, peculiarities, riddles, and concepts considered a perception or point of view (Albert & Whetten, 2004). Identity is continually emerging and becoming a dynamic and shifting process. People do not have any fixed identity. There can be varieties of identities: cultural identity, social identity, ethnic identity, and linguistic identity. Teacher identity is needed to study how teachers work, learn and develop (Beijaard et al., 2004).
Democratic and managerial professionalism are identified in shaping a teacher’s professional identity, which is transformational, reformative, context-bound, constructed, maintained, and negotiated through language and discourse (Sachs, 2001). A teacher’s professional identity is influenced by workplace conditions, language policy, curriculum, cultural differences, institutional practices, and access to professional development. All language teachers are subjects to mainstream discourses such as languages, teachers, and teaching. The narrative told by media, researchers, documents, politicians, and groups of persons are called public narratives. It makes sense of the everyday world and provides different kinds of resources for identity constructions (Holstein & Gubrium, 2000). How public and institutional members understand these narrative resources to construct identities varies from person to person and situation to situation. Educational policy, teachers’ professional development opportunities, and current educational practices create public narratives about teaching and teachers. One of the narrative resources to construct teacher identity is historically and socially constructed subject positions (Norton, 2010). Teachers’ identity relates to how a person perceives their relationship to the world and the relationship formation across time and space(Norton, 2000). Negotiating a teacher’s professional identity can be significantly influenced by contextual factors outside teachers themselves, their courses, and workplace status (Clark & Flores, 2001). Teachers’ identity is primarily affected by workplace conditions, language conditions, language policy, cultural differences and institutional practices, and so on. All language teachers are subject to mainstream discourses such as languages, teachers and teaching. Teachers’ identity is transformational, context bound, maintained and negotiated by the language, society, educational policy, and so on.
This article explores how self and other external factors construct teachers’ identities. It explores what factors are responsible for creating teachers’ professional identities.
Current Conceptualization on Teacher Identity
Teachers’ overall activity, public narratives, and what teachers know and do are a part of teachers’ identity work. They continuously perform and transform it through interaction in the classroom. Teachers’ identity is both an individual and social matter. Davies and Harré (2001) state that a subject -position prevents other ways of experiencing and understanding the world. A Norwegian research reported that teaching is a caring profession and is understood as creating and enabling an atmosphere for all children (Søreide, 2007). There is a nexus between transformative pedagogical practices and the identities of students and teachers. A research on teachers’ professional identity, Beijaard et al. (2004) reported that identity is an ongoing continuous process; therefore, identity is dynamic rather than stable and constantly evolving. It is dynamic, fluid, and shifting in nature. There is a need for dialogic interaction between teachers and students, which can help to learn new things about students and teachers themselves. Professional teacher identity is established as a separate research area in the last few decades (Beijaard et al., 2004). Social science and philosophy are useful domains for the construction of teachers’ identity research.
The approaches reflected upon evaluation procedures for assessing teachers and their development from the perspective of predefined professional development (Porter et al., 2001). There is a need for dialogic interaction between teachers and students to help students learn new things from teachers and vice versa. This process can help create their unique identities. Non-native English language teachers can’t enjoy the status and power of native English language teachers. They have to struggle to achieve such a status in the educational field. There is a problem of identity between non-native and native English language teachers. Teachers’ professional development and personal identity determine teachers’ identity(Akkerman& Meijer, 2011). A person’s identity is connected to their performance in society or how one interacts (Gee, 2001). Identity can be transformational, context-bound, negotiated, and maintained through language and discourse(Varghese et al., 2005. Critical issues must be addressed in teachers’ identity construction, namely marginalization, the status of non-native teachers, the professional status of language teaching, and teacher-student relations.
Most English language teachers around the world are non-native speakers of English. Native English language teachers have been prioritized even in the TESOL workplace, and non-native speakers can face discrimination due to accent and credibility problems (Maum, 2002). Non-native teachers of the English language are compelled to face oppression and psychological dominance by native English language teachers. They may face an identity problem. There may not be the availability of native speakers as English language teachers everywhere. Different approaches, such as neo- Vygotskian Sociocultural theory, language socialization theory, and critical pedagogy, can address identity, discourse, diversity, and local context.
The self and identity
One phenomenon of issues of determination of identity revolves around the notion of self and self-concept and its relationship to identity. Teachers’ identity depends upon self and the idea of self within an outside context. Teachers’ professional identity is defined in terms of the influences on teachers, how an individual perceives oneself, and the professional setting. Lauriala and Kukkonen (2005) stated that identity and self-concept as the same, where identity is considered concerning teachers and self-concept to students. They have used self-concept and identity as stable and dynamic simultaneously. The self is constructed within three dimensions- the actual self, and the ought self (recognized by external groups or society), and the ideal self. Looking at identity through the self and profession can help us think more clearly about identity from the point of view of teacher development. Identity through self and others seems essential, and it is necessary to consider the two together in enhancing comprehension of identity in teaching.
Kirkup (2002) revealed the link between a teacher’s personal and professional self. His position links identity and practice. Identity can be the negotiated experience of self, involves society membership, and combines different forms of membership within an identity. A teacher can be taken as an active agent in influencing the community (Alsup, 2006). Identity can be a part of the social context where the person lives. In the process of communication with others, one can self-realize the roles of others. Cooper and Olson (1996) state that historical, cultural, and psychological factors influence teacher identity construction, which is believed to have an important space in one’s lifetime. Identity has been established as a separate discipline through the discourse and practice of self and environment.
The need of critical reflection in shaping teacher identity
Reflection can be recognized as a key means by which teachers can become more able in the sense of self and deeper understanding of how self -suit into a larger context. It is one of the factors in reshaping teacher identity. Rodgers (2002) reported that reflection in teacher development has been acknowledged for some time and can be recognized as the core of effective teaching. Korthagen and Vasalos (2005) noted that core reflection is needed to enhance personal growth. It is necessary to tap into a sense of self and include reflection as a primary aspect to shape teachers’ identity. Reflection requires looking back at thoughts or practices and considering their value. It might guide a future way of looking at something. Conway (2001) reported that reflection could show the future path of thinking in teachers ‘ identity. Pennington (2002) said that teacher identity could be viewed from a different orientation. Firstly, we can look at it from social psychology, which provides perspectives on teachers’ social identity. Secondly, we can look from the perspective of teacher education literature provides perspectives on teachers’ professional identity.
The role of reflection in making sense of experience and practice is essential in teacher education. Luttenberg and Bergen (2008) reported that reflection must be broad and deep, pragmatic, ethical, and moral domains must be included in reflection, which is helpful for the identity construction of teachers. Reflection may be more or less open or closed, depending on its connection to self-reflection. The narrative self-study reflects on discursively shaped thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge to portray the construction and reconstruction of various stages in a professional career (Safari, 2018). There is a need for a shift from traditional reflection to critical sociocultural reflection because sociocultural reflection takes account of identity and related issues of individuals in a specific context. It is better to link reflection to a collaborative inquiry as a means of exploring identity.
Narrative and discourse aspects of identity
Narrative and discourse are essential aspects of constructing identity. Narrative of teachers themselves and their practice, their discourse provides a gateway to explore the element of self. Clandinin et al. (1999) focused on teachers’ stories, their self, and the power of teacher narrative to express identity within a changing professional context. Sfard and Prusak (2005) explained that identification is discursive and communicational practice. It is a collection of stories of a person and narratives about an individual. There is a link between narrative and discourse. Identity is negotiated by an individual self and the external world (Beynon, 1997). The discourses in which teachers engage contribute to shaping or constructing the teacher’s identity. The study of teacher talk can lead to the shaping and construction of identities. A teacher is a subject that influences identity development.
Teacher education needs to understand identity as a complex and multiple social and individual phenomenon. People who have no fixed identity must construct their identity through membership, context, and language use. Context and identity play crucial roles in classroom interaction and teacher work. The course room is a complex ecological site where participants interact to construct different identities. The study of teachers’ narratives, which can be called the stories of teachers, plays a significant role in exploring teachers’ thinking, culture, and behavior which are the elements of teachers’ identity. Sachs (2005) defines teachers’ professional identity as the core of the teaching profession. It provides a framework to construct their own ideas, recognizing their workplace and status in society. Teacher identity is not fixed or imposed; it is negotiated through self and sense made from experiences.
Identity is complex and changes over time, constantly evolving. Identity is discursive, social, institutional, and cultural. It has a significant role in continually emerging and becoming. Teacher identity is one of the essential aspects of teachers’ education. Teacher identity is substantial to upkeep the formation of teacher education programmes. Teachers create identities according to the context of their workplace, the environment provided by an institution, government policy, curriculum, cultural background of teachers-students, social demographics, institutional practices, and so on. English is a globally accepted lingua franca, so both native and non-native English language teachers construct and maintain an identity as language teachers according to local, cultural, and social contexts. The teacher education programme is the starting point for implanting the awareness of the need to develop an identity and an ongoing, dynamic process. It is situated within the mind, and it also exists within a social context.
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About the author: Mr. Saroj Bogati is an M.Phil. in English Language Education. He is a lecturer and Head of the Faculty of Education at Nuwakot Adarsha Multiple Campus, Battar, Nuwakot.